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MOE to double budget for financial assistance scheme in 2009

Posted on: March 7, 2009

Channel NewsAsia – Monday, February 16

SINGAPORE : The Ministry of Education (MOE) is doubling its budget for financial assistance schemes this year, bringing the total to S$44.4 million, up from S$20.7 million last year.

It will pump in additional funds for existing programmes, and roll out new initiatives for students from low-income families.

For this financial year, the educational budget will increase by 5.5 per cent to S$8.7 billion. MOE projects with spending on education will reach S$11 billion by 2013.

The extra funding will help pupils like Daryl Goh who is a Primary Six student at Townsville Primary School. His father is a hawker who earns S$800 a month, and his school fees and textbooks are all paid for under MOE’s Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS).

Last year, Daryl went on a study trip to Thailand, sponsored by his school – through its Opportunity Fund.

It was his first time on an aeroplane. One of his most memorable moments of the trip was a visit to an orphanage.

He said: “They have nothing at all. They have a TV, but it is spoilt; the video player (was) also spoilt. A lot of things, we are more fortunate than them.”

This year, the ministry will ramp up spending for low-income students like Daryl.

Education Minister Ng Eng Hen said: “MOE is mindful that many families would be affected by the economic downturn, and will maintain the approach that no child will be denied a quality education because he cannot afford it.”

The ministry said it has seen more students seeking help this year.

A ministry spokesperson said: “In January 2009, there were about 41,290 MOE FAS recipients. This is a slight increase from the January 2008 number of about 39,100 recipients. Needy families can apply for the MOE FAS at any time of the year. Thus, we expect the 2009 figure to increase further.”

For a start, the ministry will put an additional S$7.3 million into its FAS, bringing the total budget for the FAS to S$18 million in 2009.

All schools will also get a one-time S$10,000 grant to use at their discretion. This is welcome news to Townsville Primary, which has seen 140 students seeking financial help this year – up from 80 a year ago – some of whom do not meet the criteria for MOE’s current help schemes.

Constance Wong, vice-principal, Townsville Primary School, said: “We are definitely helping them, reviewing on a case-by-case basis. So the additional S$10,000 will come in useful. And for these pupils, we can provide them with school uniforms, with shoes, meal coupons for breakfast and lunch.”

Another S$10,000 will also be given to schools with a significant proportion of low-income students – schools with more than 10 per cent of their students under the FAS. These grants will add S$5.4 million to its budget.

The ministry is also spending S$11 million on a new short-term assistance scheme for all undergraduate, polytechnic and ITE students whose household incomes fall within the bottom two-thirds of the population.

This is aimed at those who need additional aid, on top of the help already received. The Short-term Study Assistance Scheme will run for two years, from Academic Years 2009 to 2010, and will give applicants up to S$2,060 each year.

There will also be some help for older students. Between 1 April 2009 and 31 March 2010, all university and polytechnic graduates will get an interest-free break from repaying their tuition fee and study loans. This includes those who are already servicing their debts, and those who will begin repayments before March 31 next year.

The new measures will benefit about 80,000 students this year. This includes 50,000 MOE-FAS recipients, and 30,000 students in post-secondary institutions. – CNA/ms

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